---Alice Abrams

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Helping a Friend - How Do You Do it?

Like so many people, specifically women, I have great difficulty asking for help! I came across this article in "Body and Soul" magazine in a question - answer column by Jennifer Louden. Sometimes the articles can be a little "new-agey" for me but this one hit the nail on the head and I wanted to share it with you. I hope you find it as interesting as I did! Especially you, Sarge!!! Chick alert! He, he...

Q. My friend is going through a hard time. She's getting divorced, her job takes everything out of her, and she'll soon be a single parent of a 6-year-old. I want to help her, but she seems to close off when I try. Short of beating down the door, what can I do? Beth C. Delray Beach, FL

A. For many women, it's much easier to help than be helped. To make matters worse, we all have beliefs about when and how it's okay to get assistance. We may think, for instance, that our friends will abandon us if we're too needy or ask for too much; or that asking for assistance makes us vulnerable in some way.

Before you do anything, reflect on your own story. What are you comfortable accepting, and what pushed your "too much," or "too close" buttons? What do you believe about good friends and helping? Is the amount of help a friend accepts a sign of how close you are? What's your "code" of friendship when it comes to aiding and comforting? Most of us never ask ourselves these crucial questions.

I certainly didn't, until I almost lost a friend over this exact issue. She was caught in a similarly awful life chapter, and I felt shut out. Finally, we had a frank (and heated) conversation about our impasse. I discovered that when I said, "What do you need? " she felt burdened. She thought, "Great, here's one more thing I have to do ---tell Jennifer what to do for me." While my code of friendship includes the belief that you need to ask friends for help, hers was: "Good friends help without having to be told." Neither approach is right or wrong, of course, but our difference were ruining our friendship.

Ask your friend out for coffee. Share what you know about your own beliefs, and include how you, too, can find it hard to accept help (if that's indeed the case). Then ask her how she most likes to be helped. By giving her a chance to pause and consider, you'll encourage her to articulate what type of assistance she needs.

Whatever comes of your conversation, though, remember that it's not about you getting to take care of her the way you want. Ultimately, it's your friend's choice ---and she may truly need to retreat for a time to get herself together. Be available to her as much as you can, and trust that, in the long run, you'll stay connected through this rough patch.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

you are a great friend honey! and this is well said.

smiles, bee

Desert Songbird said...

I have male and female friends who are like me - they have difficulty asking for help. In my case, I detest asking for help because it makes me feel as if I'm giving in to my illness.

I think the best way is to offer specific help, e.g., when I had a friend who was undergoing chemotherapy, we used to do her errands (returning movies and library books, buying diapers and formula). We all felt useful, and she didn't feel like she was burdening one person too much.

I think good friends are able to ask without feeling as if they're imposing too much, and, in return, they are also able to give the right without feeling burdened or feeling as if they are pushing too hard.